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People Power in Political Vigilantism in Ghana

Walliman proscribed that academic research proposals are usually composed of the following elements:

  • the title;
  • aims of the research;
  • the background to the research – context and previous research;
  • a definition of the research problem;
  • outline of methods of data collection and analysis;
  • possible outcomes;
  • timetable of the project and description of any resources required;
  • list of references.



Aim of the Research

This research explores People Power in the context of political Vigilantism in Ghana as a threat to human security.

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It looks at this phenomenon from the history of Europe, Africa and then Ghana. The case of Ghana and Political Party Violence is worthy of delving into. Thus, the research has three main aims;

  • Test the understanding of people power particularly political vigilantism in Ghana.
  • To understand, in great detail, the nuances of the upsurge in political vigilante groups in Ghana.
  • Examine Political Vigilantism as a threat to human security.

Research questions;

  • How is People Power a threat to human security (political security)?
  • How is political vigilantism linked to People Power?
  • What are the causes and motivation people derive from acts of political vigilantism?
  • How is Ghana, being in the West African region, prepared for acts of political vigilantism?

Background to the Studies

The manifestation of the power of the citizenry in their respective countries is gaining much attention in recent times in the academic discourse of International Relations. “People power” is a political term denoting the populist driving force of any social movement which invokes the authority of grassroots opinion and willpower, usually in opposition to that of conventionally organized corporate or political forces (Gonzaga, 2009).

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People power can be manifested as a small-scale protest or campaign for neighborhood change; or as wide-ranging, revolutionary action involving national street demonstrations, work stoppages and general strikes intending to overthrow an existing government and/or political system (Gonzaga, 2009).

It is worth noting the revolutions or the quest for the voices of the people to be heard is not a new phenomenon in International Relations. The world had witnessed the French Revolution of 1789, the American Revolution of 1783 and the British Revolution of 1688. For instance, in 2011, the Tunisian Revolution, also called the Jasmine Revolution, was an intensive campaign of civil resistance. It included a series of street demonstrations which took place in Tunisia and led to the ousting of long-time President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. The demonstrations were caused by high unemployment, food inflation, corruption, a lack of political freedoms like freedom of speech and poor living conditions (El-May, 2011; Reith, 2012; Nassar, 2016). Puspitasari (2017) also noted that the Egyptian Revolution in 2011, also known as Arab Spring or Arab Uprising, was a shock for the international community because Egypt has been seen as one of the strongest military state in North Africa region. Experts and observers even suggested that this revolution is the biggest event since the Cold War. No one ever saw this coming; yet, the Revolution happened, and it succeeded to topple President Hosni Mubarak from power. Indeed, prior to the revolution, there are factors that became the preliminary incidents as well as problems that led to the revolution, and most of these factors came from within the country.

Narrowing it down to Ghana, one could notice that the phenomenon of political party vigilante groups and their activities has been an aberration in Ghana’s politics, especially in the Fourth Republic. Over the years, the level of violence that has characterized the activities of party vigilante groups during each phase of the electoral cycle has increased, especially since the 2000s (Akyire & Arhin, 2017). It is worth noting that the term “vigilantism” has been abused particularly on the Ghanaian media landscape to mean political party violence. It is vital to note that to be “vigilant” does not necessarily mean to be violent. Johnston (1996) defined Vigilantism is essentially violent, conservative, extra-legal or illegal, organized, and directed only towards crime; it can be undertaken by agents acting on behalf of the state such as the police as well as by private citizen. For purposes of this work, the term vigilantism is operationalized as the act of violence by grassroots not only loyal to the government by also private citizens.

The Presidential and General Elections of Members of Parliament in 2016 were without exception. The immediate post-election phase also witnessed some incidents around the political transition, nearly marring the almost smooth process. Unfortunately, the manifestations of political party vigilante groups have continued from the transition and into the governing period (Akyire & Arhin, 2017). Nonetheless, the country has witnessed a series of politically motivated demonstrations, confrontations and in recent time political violence. Though it could be argued that power people are one of the means the citizenry exercise their democratic mandate, the canker of hooliganism and violence is gradually sweeping wave not only in Ghana but Africa and the world at large. By this assertion, there is a claim that this has become a threat to Human Security specifically political security. The term Human Security was broadly popularized by the UNDP (Singh, 2014). The term Human Security was broadly popularized by the UNDP (Singh, 2014). It is defined as “the security of people through development, not arms; through cooperation, not confrontation; and through peace, not war (UNDP, 1994).” Political security encompasses freedom of speech, conscience, and assembly. It also means freedom from government repression, systematic human right violation, and militarization (Singh, 2014). If there is conflict as a result of violent acts by these vigilante groups, it becomes a threat to the political security of the citizenry.

Literature Review

The concept of People Power is an important feature in international politics. Gonzaga (2009) wrote on it making reference to the Philippine Revolution. He defined People Power to mean a political term denoting the populist driving force of any social movement which invokes the authority of grassroots opinion and willpower, usually in opposition to that of conventionally organized corporate or political forces. The activities of these social movements have rippling effects on human security. The term Human Security was broadly popularized by the UNDP (Singh, 2014). Thus, if there is conflict as a result of violent acts by these vigilante groups, it becomes a threat to the security of the citizenry. Paris (2010) described Human Security as a newly developed concept shifts the focus from state/territorial security towards the security of the societies, groups or individuals. Yet different conceptualizations of human security have been developed by academics – a fact that adds confusion over the whole idea. By drawing a premise from the text, one can state that the concept of human security has been defined too broadly and this fact raises issues both in theory and in practice. The article recognizes the vagueness of the concept of human security; the author presents a way of properly conceptualizing it inside the security studies so that the use of the term will no longer leave room for such various interpretations from academics or policy-makers

Rosenbaum and Sederberg (1976) noted that vigilante politics is an organized effort outside legitimate channels to suppress or eradicate any threats to the status quo. Simply defined, it means deliberately taking the law into one’s own hands. They did it in the context of the United States of America and its history of vigilante politics. Gyampo, Graham & Bossman (2017) established a gap that Ghana’s fourth attempt at constitutional democratic governance which started in 1992 has been plagued with negative acts of political vigilantism. However, they failed to trace the origin of political vigilantism. It would have been appropriate for the authors to have looked at the Asafo Companies in the various past age Ghanaian societies. This is necessary because the Asafo Company was not only a military wing but also performed vigilante role such as leading the charge for the removal of chiefs akin to present day vigilante groups in Ghana. Gyampo, Graham, and Bossman (2017) focused on political vigilantism and democratic governance. This work will fill the gap by tackling this phenomenon as a threat to human security in the West African region.

Definition of a Research Problem

People power is on the rise on the international scene. From winning concrete improvements in people’s lives to toppling dictators, people power is a method that works. Every successful social, economic or political change movement in world history has had a key element of people power and mass direct action; abolition, women’s suffrage, workers, civil rights, better governance, better conditions of service, global justice, and other recent movements. But people power is more than just a set of civil-disobedience and direct-action tactics. It is a different understanding of power and a wide range of organizing and tactics based on that understanding. It can assume a more radical posture in the form of lawlessness, violence, and hooliganism. This research explores People Power in the context of political Vigilantism in Ghana as a threat to human security.


This study shall employ qualitative research method and the research design for the study is a case study. This is because the qualitative method will have a better focus on collecting rich and detailed data. It also enables the researcher to explore and obtain a depth understanding of issues and events related to the phenomenon under study (Teddlie & Tashakkori, 2003). The use of the qualitative method of research is to ensure Participant Observation as the method brings flexibility, allowing more naturalness and acclimatization for the interaction and collaboration between the researcher and the participant. Walliman (2011) noted that the use of qualitative research method is also to allow the researcher to access open-answered questions which will not limit the research work and broaden the knowledge scope of this work. This is to say; a lot of useful information cannot be reduced to numbers which are the hallmark of the quantitative research method. People’s judgments, feelings of comfort, emotions, ideas, and beliefs, among others can only be described in words (Walliman, 2011). Data for this research shall be collected from both primary and secondary sources. Data from primary sources shall be obtained through semi-structured or in-depth interviewing to ask questions on topics or a wide range of issues related to political vigilantism, democracy and human security using interview guide without necessarily following any strict pattern. A semi-structured interview is preferred to structured interview because it will give the researcher the flexibility to ask follow up questions where needed to get the full meaning and understanding of issues.

Data from secondary sources shall also be obtained from written materials, non-written materials, and survey data. Written materials shall include organizational records such as internal reports, annual reports, production records, personal data, committee reports and minutes of meetings; communications such as emails, letters, notes; and publications, such as books, journals, newspapers, advertising copy, government publications of all kinds, among others. Non-written materials shall be obtained from television programs, radio programs, tape recordings, videotapes, films of all types, including documentary, live reporting, interviews, etc. works of art, historical artifacts, among others. Survey data shall also include government census of population, employment, household surveys, economic data, and organizational surveys of markets, sales, economic forecasts, and employee attitudes.

Convenience and purposive sampling techniques shall be employed to select the respondents for this study. Convenience Sampling is affordable, easier and purposive sampling method enables the researcher to select the participants based on their qualities or their know-how in the area under study. Purposeful sampling is a technique widely used for the identification and selection of information-rich cases for the most effective use of limited resources (Patton, 2002). This involves identifying and selecting individuals or groups of individuals that are especially knowledgeable about or experienced with a phenomenon of interest (Cresswell & Clark, 2011). One on one in-depth interview shall be conducted with key staff at the various civil society groups such as CODEO, IMANI Ghana, among others. The researcher shall also administer interviews to security experts, personnel of security agencies, international relations experts, some Non-Governmental Organizations and International Organizations, sampled populace of political party members, party executives and if possible, members of “vigilante” groups. The researcher chose these sample population because they are major players in the field of people power, democracy, and human security. Therefore, the research participants are deemed to have in-depth knowledge and expertise needed for the study. The researcher shall use a content analysis approach to analyze the data obtained.

Possible Outcomes

This study is important for many reasons. It shall add to the existing literature which will serve as an academic reference for future researchers on people power and human security in the world. It traces the origin of political vigilantism from the concept of “People Power.” Though there are reports from civil society groups like CODEO, media outlets and other bodies on the activities of political vigilantism in Ghana, research has shown that scholarly works on it are limited (Tankebe, 2009; Gyampo, 2010; Gyampo, Graham and Bossman, 2017). Gyampo, Graham and Bossman (2017) focused on political vigilantism and democratic governance. However, this work will examine this phenomenon in the context of political security. This work will build on the idea that political vigilantism has become a threat to human security, particularly political security. It will also serve as reference material and guideline for policymakers in drafting policies to strengthen human security.

Limitation of the Research Work.

The limitation of the research relates to the scope of work that can be covered within the dissertation period. The study will take place only in one location – Ghana. Preferably, the described research problem cuts across most African countries and the world at large where people power and the threat to democracy and human security is at play. Due to financial constraints also, the research may be limited to a strict budget which might affect the knowledge scope of this work. The sensitivity and political tension in Ghana may also serve as a hindrance to this research as participants might not be available to address the issues. Also, the tendency of participants unwilling or reluctant to fully participate and contribute to their best of ability might serve as a limitation to this work.

Timetable of The Project and Description of Any Resources Required


  • Stationery and Equipment Unit Cost GHC Total Cost GHC
  • 5 reams of A4 paper 28.00 140.00
  • 4 A4 size lever files 4.00 16.00
  • 1 box of Big pen 25.00 25.00
  • 4 field notebooks 5.00 20.00
  • 2 pen drives (16 GB) 75.00 150.00
  • 1 stapling machine 25.00 25.00
  • 1 audio recorder 550.00 550.00
  • Printing and photocopy 200.00
  • Sub-total 1126.00
  • Fieldwork data collection (20 days)
  • Transportation 500.00
  • Accommodation for the researcher 80.00 per night 1600.00
  • Sub-total 2100.00
  • Data Management
  • Secretarial work (editing and binding) 800.00
  • Miscellaneous/ Contingency 450.00
  • Sub-total 1250.00
  • GRAND TOTAL 4476.00

Administrative Plan

  • Chapter One: Introduction, Literature review, and Methodology of the Study
  • 2nd September – 31st October 2019.
  • Chapter Two: The origin, history, and concept of People Power in International Relations.
  • 3rd November – 13th December 2019.
  • Drafting of an interview guide
  • 16th December- 10th January 2020.
  • Fieldwork data collection 15th January – 10th February 2020.
  • Chapter Three: Political Vigilantism in Ghana. 12th February – 27th March 2020.
  • Chapter Four: Analysis and discussions of findings. 1st April – 8th May 2019.
  • Chapter Five: Summary and Conclusions 11th May- 5th June 2019.


  • Akyire, N. & Arhin, A. K. (2017). The menace of political party vigilantism in Ghana. CODEO Roundtable Discussions, July 2017, Cape Coast.
  • Creswell, J. W., & Clark, V. L. P. (2017). Designing and conducting mixed methods research. London: Sage publications.
  • El-May, M. (2011). The Jasmine Revolution. Turkish Policy Quarterly, vol. 9 (4).
  • Gonzaga, F. (2009). People power as immanent collectivity: Re-imagining the miracle of the 1986 EDSA revolution as divine justice. Kritika Kultura, vol. 12, 109-127.
  • Gyampo, R. E., Graham, E. & Bossman, B. E. (2017). Political Vigilantism and Democratic Governance in Ghana’s Fourth Republic. African Review, vol. 44(2).
  • Johnston, L. (1996). What is vigilantism? The British Journal of Criminology, vol. 36(2).
  • Nassar, A. A. (2016). Events of the Tunisian Revolution: The Three First Years. Sweden: Uppsala University.
  • Patton, M. Q. (2002). Two decades of developments in qualitative inquiry: A personal, experiential perspective. Qualitative social work, vol. 1 (3), 261-283.
  • Puspitasari, S. (2017). Arab Spring: A case study of Egyptian Revolution 2011. Andalas Journal of International Studies, vol 6 (2).
  • Reith, N. (2013). Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution: A Spatial Demographic Analysis of Protest, Violence, and Voting Patterns. US: University of Texas.
  • Repko, A. F. (2008). Interdisciplinary research: Process and theory. London: Sage.
  • Rosenbaum, H. J., & Sederberg, P. C. (1976). Vigilante politics. Philadelphia: University of Paris, R. (2001). Human security: paradigm shift or hot air? International Security, vol. 26(2).
  • Singh J (2014). Human Security: A Theoretical Analysis. Inter. J. Polit. Sci. Develop, vol. 2(8).
  • Teddlie, C., & Tashakkori, A. (2009). Foundations of mixed methods research: Integrating quantitative and qualitative approaches in the social and behavioral sciences. London: Sage.
  • UNDP (1994). Human Development Report. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Walliman, N. (2017). Research methods: The basics. London: Routledge.

Cite this page

People Power in Political Vigilantism in Ghana. (2019, Dec 15). Retrieved from

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